Tuesday, July 29, 2014
'Soul Keeping' by John Ortberg
When is the last time you thought about the state of your soul? The health of your soul isn t just a matter of saved or unsaved. It s the hinge on which the rest of your life hangs. It s the difference between deep, satisfied spirituality and a restless, dispassionate faith. In an age of materialism and consumerism that tries to buy its way to happiness, many souls are starved and unhealthy, unsatisfied by false promises of status and wealth. We ve neglected this eternal part of ourselves, focusing instead on the temporal concerns of the world---and not without consequence. Bestselling author John Ortberg presents another classic that will help you discover your soul---the most important connection to God there is---and find your way out of the spiritual shallow-lands to true divine depth. With characteristic insight and an accessible story-filled approach, Ortberg brings practicality and relevance to one of Christianity s most mysterious and neglected topics."
The premise of this book is simple. Although we go to gyms and educational institutions to firm up our bodies and minds, we tend to overlook our souls, which remain flabby and out of shape. This may well be the cause of restlessness, dissatisfaction and other spiritual maladies which we find it hard to shake off.
In a very entertaining first section, Ortberg sets out to show that even though we give our souls lip service (soul music etc), when asked for a definition, many people aren't all that clear on exactly what they are. We get no further than the hazy, look-alike image which floats up out of a cartoon character's body when he dies. He introduces our souls as the parts of us that integrate will, mind and body, a bit like the cotton that holds garments together. The remainder of the book is full of reflections and tips to give our souls the respect and care they deserve.
He explains how they are easily damaged by all sorts of things which we are taught to approve of and chase after by the world. We get as good at lying to ourselves as we do to others. We push ourselves into hurry mode thinking that's the only way to achieve success. And we never realise that sick souls are as infectious as sick bodies. He gives a list of signs that your soul may be without a centre, including several which may seem simply 'normal' in our day and age, such as lacking patience, hurrying, having something to prove, and finding identity in externals.
As tending to the soul is the way to make all our moments glorious and content, I found the book really made me want to work on it. It encourages us to take life slowly and leave time for our souls to catch up with our bodies. It's refreshing to see that, paradoxically the soul and the ego are not partners. In fact, the more obsessed we are with our ego selves, the more the soul suffers. Yet Ortberg reminds us that we say 'yes' to greed, lust and attention in a way we don't to colds and strep throat.
The book emphasises the work of his friend and role-model, Dallas Willard. I've read that John Ortberg's warm, easy style may be a good introduction to Willard's complex theological thoughts. I like the thread of Willard's thoughts, such as, 'What matters is not the accomplishments you achieve but the person you become.' I also like the old professor who reminded himself, 'I can admire without having to acquire.' Good message for the kids.
In general, this is a good read for people who could benefit from some soul care, which is probably pretty much everyone in the western world.
Thanks to Net Galley and Zondervan for my review copy.
Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You available from Amazon